A tale of two visits to the dentist, American style

Health care disparities in America, Case No. 108,000,000:

Two people go to the dentist on the same day. I am “Exhibit A,” fully insured. My friend is “Exhibit B,” on Medicaid.

Exhibit A: Two hours before my appointment to get a cavity filled at 9 a.m., I receive a text message reminder from my dentist. I drive to the gleaming suburban office. At 9:02, after signing a Novocain permission form on an electronic screen, I am “numbed up” and await the dentist’s return. By 9:25, my cavity is filled and I check out at the front desk. I have forgotten my checkbook, so I take care of the co-pay with a credit card. I drive to work.

Exhibit B: My friend on Medicaid (government health insurance for the poor) walks a mile to a downtown clinic to get help for his decaying teeth, which are starting to bother him. He signs in, but walks out after a while because he doesn’t want to wait. As he leaves the clinic, he is hassled by two men hanging out near the building. (He walks the mile to the clinic the next day, only to learn dental care isn’t offered that day. He’ll try again tomorrow.)

By the way, the “case number” above refers to the number of Americans without dental insurance as of last year according to government estimates.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in Health care, Irish Investigations, poverty and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A tale of two visits to the dentist, American style

  1. markbialczak says:

    Ouch. The system is rigged, and broken, and your friend needs that help right away despite those two facts. He can’t walk away no matter next time, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lorrie Fitzgibbons says:

    I love working in the dental profession but am frustrated by the fact that dental health is only for the insured or wealth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim McKeever says:

      And for some reason it’s not included in regular health insurance, but is seen as an “extra.” That’s ridiculous. What’s more important day-to-day than our teeth and overall oral health??


  3. There’s hardly a worse pain than a toothache Jim. It makes me sad that many people suffer with them. When I worked at the homeless shelter, a person I’d known for years showed up one day with blood caked on his lips. He’d pulled one of his own molars because he couldn’t take the pain anymore. A group of us found a donor who graciously paid for him to get the rest of his rotting teeth pulled and get fitted with dentures. It’s not better in Canada. Dental Care is not covered by our medical coverage, so without insurance you’re screwed.
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim McKeever says:

      I’ve heard it said that in the U.S. we don’t have a health care crisis — we have a health INSURANCE crisis. Agreed. Every year, the local paper publishes a lengthy list of people who make more than $200,000 a year at Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The list numbers in the hundreds, and apparently BC/BS isn’t anywhere near the worst in the insurance “industry.” What do these people do all day except go to meetings and figure out different ways to say no?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like that you include how poor dental care can lead to other issues as well. Our bodies are not separate and free operating systems. They are all connected. I see folks all the time without the ability to get the care they need. Fortunately I see more and more ‘clinics’ and free forums popping up. Unfortunately, people need to know about them. I hope next time he waits, it’s worth the wait.


  5. Jim McKeever says:

    I hope he hangs in there and gets treated today, Colleen. The research is inconclusive, but tooth decay is linked to heart problems and stroke — mouth bacteria gets out of control and gets into the bloodstream, and can wreak havoc.


  6. Happens here too. People wait and wait. Not much can be done. I do not have cover but have experienced both services and now pay top dollars to ensure I get the best service.

    Liked by 1 person

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